Can you use US dollars in Mexico?

Gabriela Peratello

Planning a trip to Mexico? Whether you’re headed there for a vacation, for business, or for a longer term stay, you’ll need to know about how to exchange dollars to pesos — and the cheapest ways to pay your way in Mexico. This guide covers key questions, starting from: what currency does Mexico use?

We’ll also introduce the Wise Account and card as a simple and cheap way to hold, send, spend and exchange in Mexican pesos and a whole range of other currencies too.

What currency is used in Mexico?

The official currency in Mexico is the Mexican peso, which you’ll see written as MXN in currency exchange stores. On menus and in stores you may also see it shown as Mex$. Each peso is further split down into centavos, which you’ll see written as ¢.

Mexican pesos are issued in notes valued at 20 MXN, 50 MXN, 100 MXN, 200 MXN, 500 MXN and 1,000 MXN¹. There are also smaller coins, issued in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 centavos, and 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 MXN.

Alongside Mexican pesos, many merchants which deal frequently with tourists can also accept US dollars for payment.

This is particularly the case close to the US border, and in tourist areas. However, there are some drawbacks to spending USD in Mexico — particularly if you get stuck with a bad exchange rate. More on that later.

Can you use US dollars in Mexico?

If you’re headed there for a vacation you’ll probably be wondering: can you use US dollars at resorts in Mexico?

The answer is often yes. However, when you spend USD cash in Mexico you’ll have to accept the exchange rate offered by the merchant, which may not be the best available. That can mean you accidentally pay more than you need to for your purchase.

There are a couple of ways round this — including carrying a mix of USD and MXN cash, making local cash withdrawals once you arrive in Mexico, and getting a smart multi-currency account to make card payments and withdrawals with a great exchange rate. We’ll explore these options a bit more later.

Where can you use USD in Mexico?

If you’re in a tourist area or close to the US border you may well find that prices are displayed in both MXN and USD when you shop, check into a hotel or join a tour.

However, this is really down to the individual merchant, so you can’t always guarantee your US dollars will be accepted.

Is it better to bring US dollars or pesos to Mexico?

Most travelers find that they’re best off having a mixture of USD and MXN, plus a payment card or two which can be used to withdraw pesos and spend with merchants.

This gives you a number of different options, so you’ll never find you’re stuck without an accepted means of payment.

Should you take cash or card to Mexico?

There are advantages and disadvantages to using both cash and cards when you travel — which means that using a mix of both can often be best.

Carrying too much cash with you can be a risk — petty criminals do tend to target travelers. However, not all merchants will accept card payments, so having a bit of cash on you at all times is usually a smart move.

Using cards to make payments is fast and convenient — but you may find your card network isn’t supported by some merchants, and you’ll need to read your own card’s terms and conditions to check if there are extra international fees.

It helps to know that Discover Cards² can be used wherever you see the Discover or Diners Club logo — but acceptance may not be as high for Discover as for other card networks. Visa³, MasterCard⁴ and Amex⁵ all offer global ATM locator tools which can help you find a convenient ATM wherever you are in the world.

One helpful strategy is to have small amounts of both US and Mexican cash, plus a couple of payment cards on different networks.

See which ATMs allow you to make low fee withdrawals based on your card type, and use them when you can. You can also choose a specific travel card like the Wise card which uses the mid-market exchange rate and low, transparent fees⁶. More on that later.

Which are the best ATMs for you to get cash from?

The best ATM for your needs may vary a little based on the card you’re using.

It’s almost always best to use an ATM that's inside a bank if you can — these tend to be more secure and may offer lower fees compared to a standalone ATM in a store.

Beyond that, it’s worth checking if your own bank offers free or low fee international withdrawals from specific banks. Often banks in the US work in partnership with local banks around the world to offer lower fees for withdrawals — which can cut your costs significantly.

Where can you exchange dollars to pesos?

If you’re carrying US dollars in cash you can either exchange them before you travel to Mexico, or on arrival. It’s always worth avoiding currency exchange options in airports and hotels as these tend to have quite poor exchange rates. Look out for Casa de Cambio signs to find a money exchange service in Mexico.

Instead of having the hassle of finding an exchange office, check out whether you can save time and money with a specialist Wise Account and card. Open your Wise account online or in the Wise app for free, top up in USD and switch to MXN as and when you need to, with the mid-market exchange rate. More on that next.

Have all the currencies you need in your pocket: get a Wise card

If you’re traveling to Mexico see if you can save with the Wise Account and card.

You can hold 40+ currencies in your Wise Account, including MXN, and you’ll also be able to get a linked international Wise card for a low, one time fee.

Use your Wise card to spend and make withdrawals in Mexico — and your balance will be converted to MXN using the lowest possible fees, and the mid-market exchange rate every time.

Spend with your Wise card in 150+ countries, top up your card in 20+ currencies, and get local bank details for 9 currencies so you can get paid by others. Easy.

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Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing for the most up-to-date pricing and fee information.

If you’re planning a trip to Mexico it’s helpful to know that you can often spend in US dollars if you need to, as long as you’re sticking to more touristy areas. However, you’ll need to double check the exchange rate being used, as this may not be the best around — which pushes up the price you pay in the end.

As an alternative check out a modern multi-currency account from Wise to hold USD, MXN and 40+ other currencies, spend with your linked Wise Card, and get the mid-market exchange rate every time.


  1. Banco de Mexico - Banknotes and coins
  2. Discover Card - International acceptance
  3. Visa - ATM locator
  4. Mastercard - ATM locator
  5. Amex - ATM locator
  6. Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: only pay for what you use for the most up to date pricing and fee information

Sources checked on 10.12.022

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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